The most common ancestry in every US state

  • Americans come from all over the world.
  • Using individual-level Census survey data, we found the most common self-identified ancestry in each US state and DC.
  • Many states had a plurality of residents identifying as German, Mexican, or African-American.
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Americans and their families come from all over the world, and each family’s story of its origins is unique.

The US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey asks millions of Americans every year dozens of questions about their social, demographic, and economic situations. One of the questions on the survey asks respondents to write out the ancestries they and their family members identify with.

Using individual-level data from the 2017 American Community Survey assembled by the Minnesota Population Center’s Integrated Public Use Microdata Series program, we found the ancestry most commonly listed by respondents in each state.

Respondents to the survey could include up to two different ancestries in response to the question. For each of the countries and ancestries listed in the data, then, we took the total number of respondents who wrote that ancestry as their first or second response.

German was the most common ancestry in 21 states, including a broad swath of the northern half of the country. The four US states that share a land border with Mexico, along with Nevada, had Mexican as the most common self-identified ancestry. African-American ancestry was the most common in Washington, DC, as well as several states in the Deep South.

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